New Alumni Gym mural sparks mixed opinions among students


A mural of a wildcat is displayed in Alumni Gym on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

Hannah Stanley

Alumni Gym’s new mural makeover brings not only a splash of color to its plain walls but also mixed reviews.

After agreement from the students and other committees, such as the Student Government Association and the Committee for Art in Public Spaces, a bright yellow Wildcat face is now painted across the previously empty space near the treadmills.

Some students within the College of Fine Arts’ Guerilla Art class were tasked with creating and painting the mural to add liveliness to the gym’s plain brick and white walls.

The Guerilla Art class is offered in the fall and taught by Lee Ann Paynter, a faculty member in the School of Art and Visual Studies.

With a heavy emphasis on large community projects, murals are often some of those bigger projects, Lance Poston, Office of Student Success assistant vice president for external relationships and operations, said.

Director of Campus Wellness Ron Lee approached Poston, wanting to incorporate new student voices and visuals in the gyms.

“The essence of what we’re going for here is something that we certainly want to replicate in other ways,” Poston said. “That may be through art; that may be through other types of highlighting student work.”

Poston said the Wildcat mural is just the first step in adding artwork within Alumni Gym in hopes of continuing to serve students and displaying student artwork.

UK junior and Alumni Gym employee Jade Thornbury said she thinks the added touch of the university’s mascot will draw in people’s attention during their workouts.

“I love the new mural, I think it adds some color and life in the gym,” Thornbury said. “I especially enjoy the background, it adds a bit of creativity to that corner of the gym.”

Contrary to Thornbury, UK sophomore Luke Allen said the Wildcat doesn’t fit Alumni’s sleek and contemporary look.

“While that doesn’t mean it isn’t a place for art, having this mural in particular doesn’t fit the energy the gym has created through its modern design,” Allen said.

UK senior Allison Parks said she doesn’t think the new mural blends in well either, but she would love to see additional murals and student work displayed in the gym.

“I think the brick looks nice, but it’s somewhat of a dull visual, especially since there aren’t that many windows downstairs or mirrors upstairs,” Parks said.

Allen said he prefers the simpler and aesthetically-designed look Alumni previously held and hopes to maintain it throughout the rest of the space.

“I don’t believe there needs to be more murals in Alumni Gym,” Allen said. “It would make the space feel even more crowded than it already is, thus likely making it more uncomfortable.”

However, rather than feeling crowded, Parks sees the mural as an opportunity to create a more welcoming and community-like environment. She said more murals will lead to more color and allow her and her friends to view Alumni as less of a serious environment.

“We’re all Wildcats at the end of the day, so in some way, I think the mural helps eliminate the sense of social competition that many people feel when they work out in public spaces,” Parks said.

Similar to Parks, Thornbury said the new mural adds school spirit to the gym that wasn’t there before.

“Before the mural was there, there was not a Wildcat in sight,” Thornbury said. “I think having this touch of the mascot in the corner will draw in people’s attention while they workout.”

Thornbury said, as well as showing off school talent, adding further murals and student work will bring more joyful spirit to the gym.

“I would like to see more murals go up around Alumni, just because it is a great way to show off the talent and gift the painters have,” Thornbury said.

Poston hopes the art installation will bring a greater sense of community to the space and allow other students to show off their talents.

“I think in many ways that [murals] can liven up the space and reflect our student body,” Poston said. “I think there’s value also in incorporating those unique pieces of art that students design, that students installed.”